The Fair Work Ombudsman has fined growers and labour hire providers in North West Victoria’s Sunraysia region, South Australia’s Riverland, and NSW’s Coffs Harbour and Grafton a combined $78,362 for breaching pay slips and record-keeping laws in the last year.
In contrast, there has been high levels of compliance found in the Queensland growing regions of Wide Bay and Moreton Bay.
Since the regulator began its agriculture strategy in December 2021, it has investigated 237 businesses in hot spots across Australia where intelligence suggests non-compliance may be present.
Fair Work Inspectors have issued a combined 31 Infringement Notices (fines) totalling $35,964 in Sunraysia, $22,644 in the Riverland and $19,754 in Coffs Harbour and Grafton.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers were expected to apply the rules correctly.
“Record-keeping is the bedrock of compliance. Employers who fail to meet these obligations are more likely to be underpaying, whether intentionally or not. It is concerning that Inspectors have needed to issue close to $80,000 in fines to employers who breached payslip and records laws,” Ms Parker said.
Fair Work Inspectors also issued six Compliance Notices to employers who the Inspectors believed had underpaid workers under an award or had contravened the National Employment Standards. Of these, four were to employers in the Riverland, and one was to an employer in each of Moreton Bay and the Sunraysia region.
All but one of the Compliance Notices related to underpayment of hourly rates. The other, in Mildura, was issued for failure to provide the Fair Work Information Statement to workers.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has investigations into more than 80 agriculture employers ongoing nationally.
Technology helps employers get it right
Ms Parker said agriculture employers who had taken the effort to understand their new obligations since the 28 April 2022 changes to the Horticulture Award, and put in place systems to stay compliant, had been eager to demonstrate their management solutions when inspectors came checking.
“We were pleased to see that some farmers have used technology to make it easier to pay their workers correctly under the award changes. We commend those who do the right thing and hope other farmers are encouraged by these practical methods to ensure compliance,” Ms Parker said.